26 September 2005
In Presidential Statement, Security Council Calls for Renewed, Parallel Action by Israel, Palestinian Authority on Obligations under Road Map
Special Representative Says Recent Disengagement Lays Basis for "True Partnership", Encouraging Action to Address Parties' Legitimate Concerns
NEW YORK, 23 September (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council today expressed support for the statement issued in New York on 20 September by the Quartet and urged the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to cooperate, along with other parties concerned, with the efforts to achieve the goals set out in that statement.
Following a briefing by Alvaro de Soto, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Council President Lauro Baja (Philippines) read out a presidential statement in which the Council called for renewed action in parallel by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority on their obligations in accordance with the Road Map, to ensure continued progress towards the creation of an independent sovereign, democratic and viable State of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
The Quartet statement, annexed to the presidential statement, had been issued after a meeting of Quartet representatives during a press conference on 20 September (see Press Release SG/SM/10115). Participating in the meeting were: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan; Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana; and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
At the outset of the meeting, Mr. de Soto told the Council that in the early hours of 12 September, Israel had withdrawn the last of its military personnel and installations from the Gaza Strip, the fist such withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 5 June 1967. The Israeli Government, while facing vociferous opposition, had proved its ability to carry out democratic decisions in the general interest, while knowing that they would cause pain and disruption to a significant number of its citizens. Palestinian groups, by and large, held back from violent action against the settlers. The habit of coordination developed among Palestinians and Israelis in the last few months had been a valuable asset.
He said the objective benefits of the recently concluded disengagement were obvious. The Palestinians had experienced the joy of the departure of the occupier and the Israelis were no longer saddled with the unrewarding, "Sysiphus-like" grind of securing a piece of land in which squalor and resentment were untenably juxtaposed with prosperity. A basis had been laid for a true partnership, which should encourage each party to understand and address the other's legitimate needs and concerns.
Through a mix of facts created on the ground and declarations of intent by Israel, many Palestinians wondered about the prospects for a viable Palestinian State down the road. Only Israel could persuade them that that was still achievable, and encourage them to work cooperative towards that goal. For their part, the Israelis had reason to query whether the State that was emerging next door would be a good neighbour. To renew the Israelis' faith, the Palestinians would have to show they indeed would be such a neighbour, by making concrete and convincing efforts to end violence. Understanding each other's needs and concerns, they would advance on parallel, mutually reinforcing tracks.
The meeting started at 10:20 a.m. with Mr. de Soto's briefing, and was suspended at 10:50 a.m. for closed consultations. It resumed at 12:13 p.m. for issuance of the presidential statement and was adjourned at 12:15 p.m.
The full text of the presidential statement, to be issued as document PRST/2005/44, reads, as follows:
"The Security Council supports the Statement issued in New York on 20 September 2005 by the Quartet, which is annexed to this statement.
"The Security Council urges the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to cooperate, along with other parties concerned, with the efforts to achieve the goals set out in the Quartet Statement.
"The Security Council calls for renewed action in parallel by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority on their obligations in accordance with the Road Map, to ensure continued progress towards the creation of an independent, sovereign, democratic and viable State of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
"The Security Council stresses the importance of, and the need to achieve, a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on all its relevant resolutions including its resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002) and 1515 (2003), the Madrid terms of reference and the principle of land for peace.
Quartet Statement, 20 September 2005, New York
Representatives of the Quartet -- United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner -- met today in New York to discuss the Gaza disengagement and the prospects for movement towards peace in the Middle East.
The Quartet recognizes and welcomes the successful conclusion of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank and the moment of opportunity that it brings to renew efforts on the Road Map. The Quartet reiterates its belief that this brave and historic decision should open a new chapter on the path to peace in the region. It paid tribute to the political courage of Prime Minister Sharon and commends the Israeli Government, its armed forces and its police for the smooth and professional execution of the operation. It also expresses its appreciation for the responsible behaviour of the Palestinian Authority and people for helping maintain a peaceful environment during the evacuation. The Quartet applauds the close coordination between the Israeli and Palestinian security services during the process. These significant developments create new opportunities and call for renewed focus on the responsibilities of all parties. The conclusion of disengagement represents an important step towards achieving the vision of two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
The Quartet commends continued cooperation between both parties and the United States Security Coordinator, General William Ward, on security issues related to the disengagement. The Quartet calls for an end to all violence and terror. While the Palestinian Authority leadership has condemned violence and has sought to encourage Palestinian groups who have engaged in terrorism to abandon this course and engage in the democratic process, the Quartet further urges the Palestinian Authority to maintain law and order and dismantle terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. The Quartet reaffirms the continued importance of comprehensive reform of the Palestinian security services. The rule of law through authorized security institutions is fundamental to democratic practice. The Quartet expresses appreciation to those parties which have made contributions to the security reform effort, particularly Egypt, the European Union, and the United States. Finally, the Quartet welcomes the agreement between the Governments of Israel and Egypt on security arrangements along the Gaza-Egypt border.
At today's meeting, Quartet Special Envoy [James] Wolfensohn's report on his current efforts and initiatives was discussed. The Quartet encourages his further work to facilitate continued discussion between the parties to build on the success of disengagement. The Palestinian Authority should demonstrate its ability to govern, and all members of the international community should look for ways to support these efforts. The Quartet will continue to lead international efforts to support sustainable growth of the Palestinian economy and to strengthen the overall capacity of the Palestinian Authority to assume its responsibilities through an aggressive pursuit of State building and democratic reform efforts. Given the critical importance of free movement in the West Bank to the viability of the Palestinian economy, the Quartet urges an easing of the system of movement restrictions, consistent with Israel's security needs. The Quartet reaffirms that coordinated action by the international donor community is crucial for the success of the Quartet Special Envoy's Quick Impact Economic Programme, as well as for the longer-term three-year plan for Palestinian development. In this regard, it notes the importance of the $750 million in assistance which will be disbursed to the Palestinian Authority during the remainder of this year. The Quartet urges Arab States to implement existing commitments and to engage fully and positively in response to the Special Envoys initiatives. To ensure the success of this effort, the Quartet views continued progress on institutional reform of the Palestinian Authority, as well as progress in combating corruption, as essential. The Quartet also welcomes the announcement of Palestinian Legislative Council elections and upcoming municipal elections.
Looking beyond disengagement, the Quartet reviewed progress on implementation of the Road Map. The Quartet calls for renewed action in parallel by both parties on their obligations in accordance with the sequence of the Road Map. As part of the confidence-building process the Quartet urged both sides to return to the cooperative agenda reached at Sharm el-Sheikh. Contacts between the parties should be intensified at all levels. The Quartet charges the Envoys to keep progress under review.
Both parties are reminded of their obligations under the Road Map to avoid unilateral actions which prejudice final status issues. The Quartet reaffirms that any final agreement must be reached through negotiation between the parties and that a new Palestinian State must be truly viable with contiguity in the West Bank and connectivity to Gaza. On settlements, the Quartet welcomed the fact that, in areas covered by disengagement, Israel has gone beyond its obligations under the first phase of the Road Map. The Quartet expresses its concern that settlement expansion elsewhere must stop, and Israel must remove unauthorized outposts. The Quartet continues to note with concern the route of the Israeli separation barrier, particularly as it results in the confiscation of Palestinian land, cuts off the movement of people and goods, and undermines Palestinians' trust in the Road Map process as it appears to prejudge the final borders of a Palestinian State.
The Quartet members exchanged views on the Russian proposal to hold an international meeting of experts in Moscow. Contacts on this matter will continue, taking into consideration the need to give attention to the various aspects of the Middle East situation, including multilateral matters.
The Quartet reiterates its commitment to the principles outlined in previous statements, including those of 4 May 2004, 9 May 2005, and 23 June 2005, and reaffirms its commitment to a just, comprehensive, and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict based upon United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338."
Briefing by UN Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process
ALVARO DE SOTO, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that in the early hours of 12 September, Israel had withdrawn the last of its military personnel and installations from the Gaza Strip, the first such withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 5 June 1967. Furthermore, following the completion of the evacuation of civilian army infrastructure from four settlements in the northern West Bank, Israeli forces had put an end to their permanent presence in the area of the evacuated settlements.
He said the Israeli Government, while facing vociferous opposition, had proved its ability to carry out democratic decisions in the general interest, while knowing that they would cause pain and disruption to a significant number of its citizens. In his statement last week in the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly, Prime Minister Sharon had said, "The Palestinians are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own", according to Mr. de Soto.
The timing of Israel's disengagement was not the result of an agreement with the Palestinian side, but of an Israeli decision, he said. However, all relevant sectors of the Palestinian Authority had worked diligently and constructively to coordinate with their Israeli counterparts. Early fears that the operation might have to be conducted under fire had been dissipated: Palestinian groups, by and large, had held back from violent action against the settlers. The habit of coordination developed among Palestinians and Israelis in the last few months had been a valuable asset.
The Quartet, meeting in New York on 20 September, had welcomed that development, commended the Israeli Government, and expressed its appreciation for the responsible behaviour of the Palestinian Authority and people for helping to maintain a peaceful environment during the evacuation, he continued. According to the Quartet in a statement on the same day, it was now essential to bring about an early improvement in the daily lives of Palestinians, among other things, through quick-impact, employment-generating projects. It was also urgent that the parties should come to resolution on issues related to movement of persons and goods. The Quartet had also focused on the need for renewed action in parallel by both parties on their obligations in accordance with the sequence of the Road Map.
Another issue was that of armed groups and the political process, he said. The Quartet had noted that the Palestinian Authority had condemned violence and had sought to encourage Palestinian groups who had engaged in terrorism to abandon that course and engage in the democratic process. Quartet members had made clear that they viewed the forthcoming legislative elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as part of a transition towards a democratic system. That must be a Palestinian process on which the Palestinians must be in the lead.
Beyond disengagement, the Quartet had urged the parties to return to the cooperative agenda reached at Sharm el-Sheikh and to avoid unilateral actions which would prejudice final status issues, he said. Any final agreement must be reached through negotiations between the parties, and a new Palestine State must be truly viable with contiguity in the West Bank and connectivity to Gaza. While noting that in Gaza and the northern West Bank Israel had, in fact, acted beyond its obligations as provided in the first phase of the Road Map, the Quartet had expressed its concern that settlement expansion elsewhere must stop. The Quartet continued to note with concern the route of the Israeli separation barrier, particularly as it resulted in the confiscation of Palestinian land, cut off the movement of people and goods, and undermined Palestinians' trust in the Road Map process.
Addressing issues of security and violence, Mr. de Soto said that the killing of former security chief Musa Arafat and the chaos of spontaneous Palestinian celebrations in the wake of Israeli withdrawal, particularly at the Egyptian border, underscored the need for credible action by the Palestinian Authority to b ring the perpetrators of past violent actions to justice. It had been reported that amid the Palestinian celebrations at Rafah, some light arms had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had pledged to prevent further border infiltrations. On 15 September, the border with the Gaza Strip had been closed. Citing violent incidents during the past month, he said that during the reporting period, a total of 15 Palestinians, in additions to one foreigner, had been killed.
He said the construction of Israel's West Bank barrier was progressing rapidly in those parts of the route that had not been contested in court. As of 1 July, 215 kilometres had been completed and 176 kilometres were under construction. That was about 58 per cent of the Barrier's total length. Land requisition orders to allow the extension of the Barrier around Jerusalem eastwards so as to envelop the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim had elicited great concern last month. Construction on that segment of the Barrier had not begun. Israel's Deputy Prime Minister recently reiterated his country's commitment to keep the controversial E1 plan for settlement construction in the area between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim frozen, while reiterating his country's intention to build in due course.
Regarding closure and movement restrictions, he noted that since the beginning of 2005, there had been a 37 per cent reduction in the number of internal obstacles on roads in the West Bank, including checkpoints. The obstacles now numbered 376 according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Much of the reduction had been in the northern West Bank where movement had been freed up in line with disengagement from four northern West Bank settlements. Obstacles had been removed in the western area of the West Bank where the barrier was under construction, making many of the obstacles redundant.
The biggest impact of the easing was to improve Palestinian access to health and education services, he said. It was unlikely, however, that that would result in a significant improvement in the economic situation, as delays still occurred as a result of random vehicle checking and restrictions on movement entering and exiting from main cities, especially Jerusalem. Through a series of discussions, OCHA and the Israeli Defence Forces had reached a common understanding on the number and location of checkpoints and other obstacles, albeit with minor differences in definition. The withdrawal of Israeli soldiers had resulted in the removal of internal movement restrictions imposed by Israel in the Gaza Strip. On 1 September, Palestinian merchants from the West Bank had been allowed to enter Israel for the first time since a general closure had been imposed on 12 July 2005.
Turning to the situation in Lebanon, he noted that on 19 September, Prime Minister Siniora had presented his Government's plans for political, economic and institutional reforms to the Core Group ministerial meeting on Lebanon in New York. Another major challenge for the new Government was to implement effective reforms in the security apparatus. Last Friday, a bomb went off in a densely populated area in eastern Beirut, killing one person and injuring more than 20. The Secretary-General strongly condemned that act of terrorism. While it appeared that such acts had been designed to create panic and provoke reactions amongst the Lebanese public, there had been a mature and calm approach in the face of those provocations. It was clear that the majority of Lebanese were determined to not have their progress towards a united, sovereign and democratic Lebanon derailed.
Over the past month, the Blue Line had also remained relatively calm, despite the firing of two missiles from Lebanese territory on 25 August, he said. Fortunately there had been no casualties. However, it had not been possible to definitively establish who was responsible for the act, which had underlined the need for Lebanon's Government to exert its full authority in the south and prevent such violations from taking place. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had observed seven Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace over the past month.
He said the objective benefits of the recently concluded disengagement were obvious and fairly easy to tick off. The Palestinians had experienced the joy of the departure of the occupier, and the Israelis were no longer saddled with the unrewarding, "Sysiphus-like" grind of securing a piece of land in which squalor and resentment were untenably juxtaposed with prosperity. Israel had demonstrated that it could make the sacrifices that were required to make peace; the Palestinians had shown self-restraint in the face of unilateral decisions and tight time frames. The forces of moderation had prevailed over those of extremism to mingle again in a shared mainstream of moderation and willingness to compromise. A mechanism for coordination at levels was in place. A basis had been laid for a true partnership, which should encourage each party to understand and address the other's legitimate needs and concerns.
He added that the Israeli need for security had led them to instal, encroaching on Palestinian Occupied Territory, a barrier -- a generic term encompassing a combination of grid fences, barbed wire, trenches, electronic devices, watch towers and, in some places, a dauntingly high and very forbidding-looking wall. In addition, Israel ran a system of roadblocks and checkpoints -- some stable and some intermittent -- to control the movement of persons and goods into and throughout much of the West Bank.
He noted that apart from impeding economic revival, to many Palestinians -- the millions who had no connection with or sympathy for those who resorted to violence -- the barrier, closures and travails of traversing them were a source of humiliation and a constant check on their aspiration to one day run their own affairs. The expense incurred in building the barrier raised doubts in some minds as to its stated provisionality. Questions had also been posed as to whether the purpose was only to ensure security. Beyond the relief of recovered land and freedom of internal movement, the Palestinians who lived in Gaza would wonder what had changed if it was not followed by their ability to link up with their brethren in the West Bank and in the outside world.
While Israelis should understand these concerns and recognize that it was ultimately in their interest to address them, Palestinians must understand and address Israel's need to be assured of the safety and security of its citizens, he added. Countless innocent Israelis had fallen victim to terrorist acts, and Israelis had a right to demand that that cease. Palestinians, not just the leadership and the mainstream, had to accept that there could only be a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine in the framework of two States living alongside each other peacefully and respectfully. They had to renounce the resort to violence as a means to achieve their ends, however legitimate those might be. Those who had carried out acts of terror or instigated them should understand that that had rendered the achievement of the goal of a State in which Palestinians lived in freedom and dignity more distant rather than the contrary.
It was often overlooked, he said, that security, broadly writ, was not just an Israeli requirement. The Palestinian people at large demanded that law and order be established in the streets, which meant not only an efficient policy but also a reliable court system and an end to impunity and corruption. The Palestinian Authority was the underpinning for a still incipient State-to-be; the Palestinians understandably expected it to discharge the responsibilities which normally fell to the government of an established State. As noted by the Quartet, the Palestinian Authority was in transition to democracy. The political will of the Palestinian Authority must be unequivocal.
Development of a State run by the rule of law, in which the government held the monopoly over the instruments of violence, went hand in hand with the strengthening of Israel's sense of security, he said. A State at peace with itself generated security in its neighbours. It was difficult to circumvent the
classic chicken and egg conundrum. Israeli leaders demanded an end to violence before addressing further Palestinian concerns. For their part, Palestinian leaders found it difficult to persuade extremists to restrain themselves and accept to work towards a democracy if they were unable to point to a visible prospect of satisfaction of their legitimate goals on the horizon.
Beyond disengagement, he said it was difficult to see how that conundrum could be resolved, and the process moved forward, other than by the discharge, in parallel, of the parties' respective obligations, which was the approach of the Quartet in the Road Map. Through a mix of facts created on the ground and declarations of intent by Israel, many Palestinians wondered about the prospects for a viable Palestinian State down the road. Only Israel could persuade them that that was still achievable, and encourage them to work cooperatively towards that goal. For their part, the Israelis had reason to query whether the State that was emerging next door would be a good neighbour. To renew the Israelis' faith, the Palestinians would have to show they indeed would be such a neighbour, by making concrete and convincing efforts to end violence. Understanding each other's needs and concerns, they would advance on parallel, mutually reinforcing tracks.
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